Prologue: science crack for kiddies

Doctor Who made me into a scientist. Not by presenting rigorous educational content – hardly – or even by presenting the Wonders of Nature, Carl Sagan or Brian Cox style, smoothing over the hard maths with exciting graphics and colourful spectacle.

No, Doctor Who did something different. Every week was a cocktail of scary monsters and witty banter, shot through with a heady measure of scientific ideas. Arthur C Clarke once described science fiction as “the only true mind-expanding drug”, and Doctor Who was the crack sold at the school gates.

The various writers and script editors of Doctor Who were never doing technically-accurate projections of scientific principles. They were telling stories. But, whether they were picking up ideas from popular science and extending them past all reason or sanity, or weaving modern fairy tales from the principles of information technology, or writing political fables about a world that is fundamentally conditioned by the technologies of human power, their stories were wrapped around powerful ideas about space and time, matter and entropy, evolution and consciousness.

Exploring these ideas is what this blog is all about. Going story by story from 1963 to 1989, from Hartnell to McCoy, from stone age religion to evolutionary armageddon.

One story per week, one big idea per story – with one big exception. The cavemen will have to wait till next week, as we start off looking at the very first episode on its own. Because it raises a scientific question that is the most glaring and persistent puzzle in the entire show, and that will take all the power of advanced general relativity to answer.

Just how can a box be bigger on the inside than the outside?

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